On July 29th, the heads of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple had a hearing in front of the US Congress.
For over a year, top members of the US Congress have been investigating the four tech giants to determine whether the companies have abused their power and dominance in the online marketplace.
If Congress doesn’t bring fairness to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with Executive Orders. In Washington, it has been ALL TALK and NO ACTION for years, and the people of our Country are sick and tired of it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2020
The world’s richest person and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos appeared before Congress for the first time.
For the first two hours he avoided every single question.
Notably, Bezos admitted that Amazon “may have” violated its own policy that prohibits the use of third-party seller data to support Amazon’s own private-label business.
At various times in the hearing, Bezos either said he couldn’t answer the question or couldn’t recall the incident he was being questioned about.
His testimony was rather underwhelming, since he seemed rather disinterested in what was going on.
Bezos, similarly to everybody else, when pressured by members of Congress over their predatory practices and their abuses of power and market dominance would resort to “American patriotism.”
Bezos referenced the “trust” Americans have in Amazon. “We need American workers to get products to American customers,” he said in his prepared remarks.
“Apple is a uniquely American company whose success is only possible in this country,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in his remarks, touting the number of US jobs it has helped create.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg played the card that the US was battling with China over tech supremacy.
“If you look at where the top technology companies come from, a decade ago the vast majority were American,” the Facebook CEO said. “Today, almost half are Chinese.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was confronted about internal company emails he sent in 2012 about buying Instagram. The emails were acquired by the House Judiciary Committee as part of its antitrust investigation.
In one email, Zuckerberg said Instagram could be “very disruptive” to Facebook.
In essence, Facebook viewed Instagram as a “threat” and instead of competing with it, it simply bought it.
In response, Zuckerberg did not deny he viewed Instagram as a threat, but pointed out that the deal was approved by the Federal Trade Commission at the time.
All four of the CEOs released their prepared opening remarks to the public prior to the hearing.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company has offered a competitive platform that has lowered prices advertisers, giving consumers more choice.
“A competitive digital ad marketplace gives publishers and advertisers, and therefore consumers, an enormous amount of choice,” Pichai stated. “For example, competition in ads — from Twitter, Instagram, Comcast and others — has helped lower online advertising costs by 40% over the last 10 years, with these saving passed down to consumers through lower prices.”
Pichai goes on to cite Amazon’s Alexa, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook-owned WhatsApp as competitive platforms where people get information.
“In areas like travel and real estate, Google faces strong competition for search queries from many businesses that are experts in those areas,” Pichai stated in the written remarks. “Today’s competitive landscape looks nothing like it did 5 years ago, let alone 21 years ago, when Google launched its first product, Google Search. People have more ways to search for information than ever before.”
According to him, Google was an ally to competition, in short, and it facilitated it, regardless of any allegations and investigations into the contrary.
Apple CEO Tim Cook’s opening statement defended Apple, asserting that the company “does not have a dominant market share in any market where we do business.”
“That is not just true for iPhone; it is true for any product category,” Cook wrote in the opening statement.
“Apple’s commissions are comparable to or lower than commissions charged by the majority of our competitors,” the Apple CEO continued. “And they are vastly lower than the 50 to 70% that software developers paid to distribute their work before we launched the App Store.”
So, essentially, Cook claimed Apple also facilitates competition.
“The App Store evolves with the times, and every change we have made has been in the direction of providing a better experience for our users and a compelling business opportunity for developers,” he wrote, mentioning “more than 1.9 million American jobs in all 50 states are attributable to the App Store ecosystem.”
“I am here today because scrutiny is responsible and appropriate,” Cook said in his planned opening statement. “We approach this process with respect and humility. But we make no concession on the facts.”
In Bezos’ prepared remarks, he repeatedly called Amazon small beside competitors like Walmart while simultaneously arguing that Amazon’s size is necessary to keep the online economy running because “just like the world needs small companies, it also needs large ones.”
Finally, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg conceded to lawmakers that his company has more work to do in combating disinformation and voter suppression, according to his prepared opening statement.
“We recognize that we have a responsibility to stop bad actors from interfering with or undermining these conversations through misinformation, attempted voter suppression, or speech that is hateful or incites violence,” Zuckerberg’s statement says. “I understand the concerns people have in these areas, and we are working to address them. While we are making progress — for example, we have dramatically improved our ability to proactively find and remove harmful content and prevent election interference — I recognize that we have more to do.”
Censorship of independent media was entirely disregarded, and was besides the point of interest, since it would appear that monopolism and abuse of power and market dominance were the main focuses of the hearing.
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